Poet Semimaru with His Lute in a Bag

Artist: Katsushika Hokusai 葛飾北斎 (1760-1849)
Historical period(s)
Edo period, 1839
Ink and color on paper
H x W (image): 92.4 × 18.6 cm (36 3/8 × 7 5/16 in)
Credit Line
Gift of Charles Lang Freer
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view

Hanging scroll (mounted on panel)

Edo period (1615 - 1868), Japan, lute, poet, ukiyo-e

To 1902
Thomas E. Kirby (1846-1924), New York to 1902 [1]

From 1902 to 1919
Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919), purchased from Thomas E. Kirby in 1902 [2]

From 1920
Freer Gallery of Art, gift of Charles Lang Freer in 1920 [3]


[1] See Original Kakemono List, L. 269, pg. 61, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives.

[2] See note 1.

[3] The original deed of Charles Lang Freer's gift was signed in 1906. The collection was received in 1920 upon the completion of the Freer Gallery.

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

Thomas E. Kirby (C.L. Freer source) 1846-1924
Charles Lang Freer 1854-1919


Semimaru, a legendary figure said to have been the fourth son of Emperor Daigo (rEIGNED 897-930), was sent to Mount Osaka because he was blind. Myths and legends about Semimaru form the basis of the medieval Noh play of the same name. In the Edo period he was featured as a character in puppet plays and kabuki drama. In an earlier picture in Hokusai's popular multivolume Manga sketchbooks, Semimaru holds a lute (biwa). Here, his instrument is in a cloth bag, and his expression seems introspective. Hokusai had reached his eightieth year when he painted this work in ink and pale colors, a style he had practiced for over forty years. Many of his paintings of this period are thought to include elements of reflective self-portrayal.

Published References
  • Hokusai nikuhitsuga taisei [Compilation of paintings by Hokusai]. Tokyo. no. 260.
  • Harold P. Stern, Narasaki Muneshige. Ukiyo-e shuka. vol. 16, Tokyo. no. 15.
  • Ernest Francisco Fenollosa. Catalogue of the Exhibition of Paintings of Hokusai: Held at the Japan Fine Art Association, Uyeno Park, Tókio, from 13th to 30th January, 1900. Exh. cat. Tokyo, January 13 - 30, 1900. no. 187.
  • Ann Yonemura, Nagata Seiji, Kobayashi Tadashi, Asano Shugo, Timothy Clark, Naito Masatoshi. Hokusai: Volume Two. Exh. cat. Washington, 2006. cat. 120, pp. 33, 88.
  • Ann Yonemura. Hokusai: Volume One. Exh. cat. Washington, 2006. cat. 42, p. 58.
Collection Area(s)
Japanese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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